Reduce, Reuse, Diffuse: Make Your Own Flash Diffuser from an Old Film Container

film canister flash diffuser
Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2

Harsh, unflattering flash got you down? Grab an old roll of film and make it all better.

Follow Flickr user natuurplaat’s lead, and turn an old film canister into a flash diffuser! A few strategic cuts make it easy to slip the canister onto your pop-up flash, and voila! Soft, beautiful lighting.

Keep reading and we’ll show you how to make your very own little piece of genius.

Film Canister Flash Diffuser
Thanks to reader Jeff Gamble for the tip!

The Ingredient list


  • Camera with a pop-up flash
  • White film container — We got free used ones by sweet-talking the clerk at our local photo lab.
  • Ruler
  • X-acto knife

Step 1: Measure your flash

measure flashMeasure the width of your flash so you’ll know how wide to make the cut in your film container.

Step 2: Cut the film container

cut film containerUsing a sharp blade, carefully cut a notch in the side of the film container (take the lid off first). Make the notch just slightly wider than the depth of the flash. Click on the photo to see the finished result.

Step 3: Slide it on

put canister over flashSlide the film container onto your flash, and put the lid on to hold it in place. If the fit is too snug, make the cut a little wider. If it’s too loose, a little tape should keep it on.

Step 4: Go take pictures!

canister on cameraGet out there and shoot!

Take photos as you would normally. The film container will diffuse our flash’s harsh light. Your camera should automatically adjust exposure to make up for the reduced light output.

You’ll be everyone’s favorite photographer once they see how good you make them look!

Before: Shiny & Pasty

before pictureHarsh flash washes out skin and highlights flaws. Seriously, you can see stains on somebody’s soul with that thing.

After: Lovely & Pleasant

after pictureDiffused light makes skintones look more natural and lets the unflattering details slide.

Want some more ideas?

Here are a couple more ways to diffuse that blinding flash…

  • No film canisters on hand? If you’re a smoker, you may be in luck. (10-to-1 that’s the last time we say that). Check out monkeywithagun’s guide to crafting a diffuser from an empty cigarette pack.
  • No film canisters OR cigarettes? Try yogurt containers.